Architecture & Feminism: Debated Terms

Posted by: Joan Braderman

The following is an excerpt from “Architecture and Social Change” by Nunzia Rondanini that appeared in Heresies II Vol. 3. No.3

As a movement uniting all women in a struggle against exploitation and discrimination, feminism includes the goals of attaining our own identity and of achieving a share of power. Yet among ourselves, we may disagree on the meaning of both identity and power. I, for instance, do not see feminism as independent of class struggle, but rather as a stream that eventually flows into the larger movement toward a new social organization. This explains why, in dealing with the relationships between architecture and social change, I cannot identify an exclusively feminist dimension of the problem.

Architecture, like feminism, is also a much debated term. The role of the architect today is particularly uncertain and ambiguous. A coherent and solid foundation to contemporary practice necessitates a theoretical framework if questions raised by this practice are to be answered coherently. This rational foundation must be sought in history, in the works that were built or only planned, as they appear in their ultimate expression: form. History, whether man’s or woman’s, has never experienced interruptions. Historical events and architecture may change or develop, but they always originate in their precedents. Architecture is as old as people themselves. Can we now “invent” it, starting from fanciful images of tomorrow’s world or from what we think a liberated feminine sensibility should be? We will not do anything different unless we do something better. And this implies a knowledge of what we will improve upon. It is only through history that we can learn about architecture. The fact that history has been written and built mostly by men is a reality we cannot wipe out in a single sweep.

The Caravan, Pierre Jeanneret & Jean Prouvé, 1939, courtesy of

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